The GOP’s fake fight to overturn Biden’s signature effort
When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, it took them less than a month to hold the first of several dozen symbolic votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Six years later, Republicans rushed to repeal the Obama administration’s landmark health care law immediately after seizing full power in Washington.
If history were a prologue, after taking over the House of Representatives in January, Republicans could have been expected to be quick to target President Joe Biden’s legislative achievement: the sweeping inflation-reduction bill passed last year .
Instead, for most Republicans, the past seems like something else: a cautionary tale.
Three months after the GOP majority in the new House of Representatives, there has been little movement toward reversing this bill, which includes some of the most significant climate and health measures passed by Congress in recent memory.
So far, the only noise for repeal has come from about 20 members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, who introduced legislation for full repeal in March. There’s no indication their bill will be tabled anytime soon, but those lawmakers have called for the repeal of the IRA as a condition of their vote to raise the US government’s borrowing limit.
Still, supporters of the push are confident it would be high on the agenda should Republicans win Congress and the presidency in the 2024 election.
“I have a strong belief that this law would be reversed,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), a co-supporter of the repeal bill, adding that the IRA’s passage through the process of voting on the party’s budget makes this possible would GOP to do the same to pick it up.
This confidence is poised to put House Conservatives on a collision course with many of their peers who have a very different view of how they would approach the IRA – namely, selectively.
When asked about repealing the bill, Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) was quick to invoke the GOP’s failure to jettison Obamacare in 2017. “We know from experience that this is probably not the way to go,” he said.
“Fine if you want to try something like this once, but … you want to do more than just make a point,” Cramer said. “Let’s get to the most offensive areas and make adjustments between here and there.”
The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives has already signaled a phased approach. The GOP’s omnibus energy package, passed on Thursday, targets several climate-related aspects of the IRA, but not the biggest ones, such as the electric vehicle subsidy program.
Meanwhile, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), a member of the Appropriations Committee, suggested that House Republicans could use the purse’s power and “see if maybe we can reclaim some of the money that’s not being spent.” was still.”
Republicans may have learned from their Obamacare debacle that not only is sweeping legislation hard to reverse; It’s also difficult to reverse a law years after it was passed and copious amounts of cash have poured out the door. The IRA included about $700 billion in direct federal investment.
Additionally, companies are already planning the IRA’s clean energy and manufacturing incentives, for example, and millions of Americans who use insulin are now buying it for a maximum co-payment of $35 a month, a cap introduced by the IRA.
The insulin cap, along with provisions that allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, has helped make the IRA much more popular than Obamacare was in its early days. Even Republican lawmakers are welcoming these provisions, along with several other tax reforms.
Undoing it could be a politically painful experience for Republicans. And if some GOP lawmakers insist on pushing for a repeal, many Democrats would more than welcome the challenge.
“We should take them at their word that they want to reverse the largest climate action America has ever taken,” said Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). “I think we should take them at their word that they want to increase the price of prescription drugs, including insulin. And I think Democrats should be excited to sue in this next election.”
Some Democrats doubt that Republicans could even touch the law, even given the chance. “I don’t think they will be successful,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “It would be a terrible misstep for them.”
Given these factors, it’s perhaps not surprising that apathy seems to be the GOP’s dominant stance when it comes to overturning Biden’s signature legislative achievement.
That’s not to say Republicans like the bill. But compared to Obamacare, which has dominated GOP messages for years, perhaps what is most striking about the way Republicans think about the IRA is how relatively little they seem to think about it.
When The Daily Beast reached out to eight GOP lawmakers to ask their thoughts on repealing the IRA, some seemed surprised they were even asked. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) called it an “interesting question” but indicated he would “seriously consider” repealing the law.
One of Biden’s harshest critics in Congress, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), said he needed to “double-check” the content of the IRA before presenting his views.
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), a member of the House GOP leadership, said “I expect” Republicans would move to repeal, but indicated it was early days.
“To be honest, I haven’t heard of it,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said when asked about his colleagues’ bill to repeal the IRA. “I’m sure there are parts of a lot of bills that people want to reconsider.”
These responses reflect what has been a constant challenge for Republicans: creating a cohesive negative branding for the IRA. They had no such problems with Obamacare, which they quickly disguised as a hostile government takeover of the healthcare system.
But the IRA is remarkably broad: it includes numerous provisions on energy and healthcare, and offers a mix of outright spending and tax reforms to advance Democrats’ goals of tackling climate change, lowering prescription drug costs and coercing the wealthy to pay more taxes.
Prior to the 2022 Midterms, Republicans generally preferred campaigning on the cost of living, crime, and immigration. In so far as they spoke of the IRA, this referred to the funding of the Internal Revenue Service, which they portrayed as a force to scrutinize middle-class taxpayers.
Some Republicans will even admit that there are actually parts of the law that they like. Donalds, for example, mentioned the price cap on insulin, but argued that Republicans could raise the issue themselves. “You don’t need the Inflation Reduction Act for that,” he said.
Cramer, meanwhile, mentioned the IRA’s provisions to incentivize domestic manufacturing and its tax credits for companies’ use of carbon capture technology, which can reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions.
“If you pick up the whole thing, you might have some people who like some parts of it,” he said. “There are some things that we can work on that we could specifically lift and then some things that you can keep that I think would advance some of our priorities.”
The question for Republicans is how serious their right flank is about bringing down the IRA — or how much of their rhetoric will be forgotten should the GOP return to power in Congress and the White House in 2025 or beyond.
At least some Democrats are not holding their breath.
“People are often incredulous because [Republicans] suggest doing unpopular things — and think, “Well, they can’t really mean that,” said Schatz. “But then they end up doing unpopular things. I take her at her word.”